Friday, September 30, 2022

Learning My Own Lesson

I have been talking a lot about the importance of marketing lately, but guess who hasn't been actively looking for new clients?  This girl.

To be fair, I haven't exactly been doing nothing.  My horse got sick in April, and quite a few months of the year were spent simply keeping him alive.  I had no time to market; I was lucky when I was able to just get existing client work finished on time.

Since then, I've been working a lot on branding, websites, and my resume and portfolio.  So it's not like I haven't been marketing at all.  I've been working on getting all this stuff ready for potential clients to see, which is important too.

But I have not been looking for new clients, and it is coming back to bite me.

Early this year, just before my horse got sick, one of my regular clients went on hiatus.  They had something in the pipelines that they were working on, and needed to finish it before they could send any further work my way.  It was initially just supposed to be a couple months, but it has gone on and on.  I got a little bit of work from them a couple months ago, but that unfortunately didn't last long before they were back to the drawing board.  I'm still currently waiting to see when they'll be back.

And now, I've just lost another regular client, one I access through a writer site.  They've decided to stop offering client marketing as a service, so they no longer need writers to create marketing content.  It's unexpected and a disappointment, since I've been writing for them for about seven years - a pretty long time for a repeat client.  But it's also a significant loss of income, since they were one of two remaining regular clients.

The only regular client I have left does give me a fair amount of work, and has increased what they give me recently, but it's not quite enough to make up for losing not just one but two clients in one year.  So it's good that I'm almost done working on my website, resume, and portfolio, because I'll need to start actively hunting for more clients soon if I don't want to feel too much of a pinch from the loss.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Importance of Marketing for Small Business

The other day, I wrote about why freelance writers need to market continually.  Marketing on a regular basis keeps helps us to maintain our work queue, find new clients, and replace lost regulars.

But it's not just freelance writers that benefit from regular marketing.  Small businesses of all sizes also benefit from regular marketing.

Think about it for a moment.  If even huge, well known companies market themselves, how are the little guys going to ever survive with the big fish if they don't market, too?

Marketing looks a little different for small businesses and sole proprietors, of course.  Big companies can afford expensive prime time TV commercials, for instance.  It's their tremendous brand name recognition that allows them to spend so much on marketing, ironically.  Those kinds of ads will be out of reach for the majority of small businesses.

For many small businesses, marketing means having a stellar website, blogging regularly to keep it higher in search engine rankings, posting to social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, building a mailing list and sending out emails and newsletters, and creating visual content for social media sites like Instagram and YouTube.  These are all free or low-cost marketing that have the added advantage of speaking directly to your target market.

Marketing for small business owners isn't necessarily expensive.  Aside from the cost of paying a writer or editor, most of the expense is in the form of the time it takes to run all those marketing campaigns, which is of course why many small businesses either have a dedicated marketing person or outsource their marketing.

However you do it, marketing is important.  No one is going to know your business exists unless you get it out there, and the client's or customer's decision to buy is often dependent on name recognition at minimum, if not a track record of following you on social media or getting your emails.

Marketing isn't all that complicated, either, once you zoom out a little.  At minimum, you need to figure out where your target market hangs out, find a way to reach them there, and get your business in front of them as much as possible.  As long as you can do at least that, you can give your business a fighting chance.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Using Canva for Social Media Marketing

In a recent post, I mentioned Canva, a design tool I've been using for everything from video editing to marketing materials.  I'm still loving Canva, and was super interested when a self-publishing author support firm whose mailing list I'm on posted a Canva for Beginners virtual class coming up.

I'm not entirely sure I'm a beginner with Canva anymore, but since I'm largely self-taught, there's probably still something I could learn in that course.  I'm considering taking it.  I really like that if you register for the class, you can listen to it live, but if you can't make it live you also get the audio file download afterward.  I'm terrible at making it to things like that on time, so I think I'd probably be dependent on getting the download later.

While I was looking for the My Word Publishing business page and event schedule, I did a little Google search and found a surprising amount of Canva tutorials for authors and small business owners.  I found tutorials for everything from creating ebooks in Canva, to social media marketing for authors.  I'm thinking about reading and watching some of those free YouTube videos before I decide whether to pay $29 for the paid course.  I'd be interested in learning as much as possible about how to use Canva, so I may end up doing all of it.

The other thing I found while looking up the Canva for Beginners online class is that My Word Publishing also sells access to recordings for past classes.  Click here for their list of events and recorded classes.  I'm potentially interested in the Basics of Email Marketing and MailChimp and Instagram for Authors recorded classes.  Perhaps not yet, but hopefully next year I'll have to start thinking about starting to market.  But again, me being me, I'll probably check and see how much of that information is available online for free first.

A note about My Word Publishing: I found out about them a few years back, when they reached out to the Denver area NaNoWriMo MLs to let us know they were having some free related seminars during October and November.  I went to one or two of them, just to check things out.  They were, of course, ultimately marketing their services to wrimos, but I remembering still feeling like I walked away with some valuable information.

The bottom line is: There is so much you can do with online marketing these days, and knowing how to use tools like Canva to your best advantage is so important!

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Freelancers: The Importance of Diversifying Your Client Base

Like my last post, this post is more for other freelancers, although some clients may find it applicable to them as well.

As a freelancer (or any small business person, really), it's important never to focus all of your work in one place.  Freelancing is about working for more than one client, after all, as working for just one employer would be essentially full-time employment without any of the benefits - and what's the point in that?

More importantly, though, spreading out your work between many clients is what protects your livelihood.  If you work for many clients, even if they are repeat clients, you have a buffer if you should lose one.  Yes, you might miss that income and you might have a tight month or two if it takes you a while to replace the lost work, but you will still have your other clients.  It's the modern-world equivalent of putting your eggs in more than one basket.

This is also why marketing is important for freelancers, as I discussed in the last post.  If you're marketing regularly, you should have some work already lined up.  Plus, if you're marketing on a weekly or even daily basis, you may even be able to fill the opening before you get through the queue and start to feel the pinch from the lost client.

Diversifying also has one other benefit that isn't often discussed: It helps protect you from burnout.  It's really easy to get burnt out when you're writing too much of the same thing all the time.  One of the benefits of freelancing is that we have a little more power over what we choose to write, so exercise that power, and make choices that keep the work interesting to you.

It takes a dedicated freelancer to juggle regular marketing plus multiple clients and a project queue, or perhaps I should say a dedicated small business person and entrepreneur - as that is what we are, after all.  If you feel overwhelmed by the many hats you have to wear as a freelancer, or if you worry that you don't have the skills to juggle all of this, find some productivity tools (like these that I suggested not too long ago) that will help you accomplish what you need to do to freelance successfully.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Ebb and Flow: Why Freelancers Need to Keep Marketing

This post is more for freelancers, although small business clients who hire writers could use some of the marketing insight as well.

You may have heard other freelancers talk about marketing.  But what is it, and why is it important to keep it up?

Marketing can take many forms.  Cold calling or writing to clients is marketing, yes.  But browsing freelance job boards and responding to job postings is also marketing.  Reaching out to past clients or following up with current clients to see if they have more work for you is marketing.  Posting your resume, building your website, blogging, posting to your writer Instagram: all marketing.

Simply put, marketing is anything that gets your name out there and helps to build your brand.  Sometimes marketing may see immediate impact, such as cold calling, responding to job postings, or following up with past clients.  Those actions can result in work right away.  Other times marketing doesn't pay off for a while, such as when a client doesn't have any work for you yet (but your follow-up keeps you fresh in their mind when they do have some work).  And sometimes, marketing doesn't really have any direct payoff, but contributes to building your brand or online presence, so it's beneficial in a cumulative sense.

Lately I've been working a lot on marketing materials for my businesses: overhauling my websites, settling on visual branding, rewriting my resume, and updating my blogs.  It's been a ton of work, and there's no immediate benefit of any of it, but it's still important.  Once I get everything updated the way I want it, I intend to make a habit of trolling the job boards on a daily basis.

I used to search for work daily.  It was how I started out every day: I read email, I caught up on the blogs I followed (yes, this was when blogs were the primary source of social media), and I searched the job boards.  I would do quick searches of all of my favorite job boards, saving all of the ads I wanted to respond to, and then I would spend some time responding to each one.

I haven't done that in a long time, but I need to start doing it again, for the simple reason that marketing regularly helps you to avoid any gaps in work (and income).  Not every query or cold call or job ad response will lead to work, so doing a few a day ensures that a freelancer can keep plenty of work queued up.

I've gotten a little stuck in my routine and lately have been getting all my work from just a couple of clients on one freelancer site, but it's time to start marketing again, as I don't like being dependent on just a couple of clients.  I had a third client who stopped needing work from me early this year while they worked on their software, and the loss of income from that client has been really rough to deal with, on top of an already really difficult year.

With all of this in mind, my next post (also for freelancers) will talk about the importance of diversifying.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Create Your NaNoWriMo 2022 Project Today!

This just in from NaNoWriMo HQ: Project creation for November 2022 is up and running!  Click here to create your NaNoWriMo 2022 project.

You can see my project for November in my list of NaNoWriMo projects.  I'm linking to the entire project link rather than this year's project, just in case I change my mind on what I'm going to do this year.  I don't want to break the link if I change the project title, since the project title is in the URL.

For now I'm still planning on working on the Ruby Ransome rewrite during NaNo this year.  It makes the most sense, since 1) it's fiction, so it's more appropriate for NaNoWriMo, and 2) I would love to get that novel published next year, just for the appropriateness of publishing it exactly 100 years from when it takes place.  I think it'll be a lot harder to stay motivated and "win" if I work on one of my other projects.

I did think about working on one of my other fiction projects (I have several that are in various stages of progress), but decided not to add them to my list because as much as I'd love to finish them, there's less of a time crunch on those.  I have a couple of novels in progress, one that's part of a larger project that I was working on last year (but didn't get very far), as well as a shorter juvenile novel that's almost done.

Even though it's early, I encourage you to decide what you're going to write and create a project.  Even if you might change your project later (like I might), it's good to get started thinking about it now.  I've found that the NaNo projects I've been more successful with have been ones I've had plenty of time to plan.  Last-minute projects are much less likely to succeed, at least in my own experience.

What are you planning to write for NaNoWriMo?

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Choosing This Year's NaNoWriMo Project

It's that time of year where I'm starting to think about what I'll write for NaNoWriMo.  I have been working a lot on my websites lately, overhauling the older sites and developing some much-needed visual branding.  But that has brought to mind a lot of potential projects that I could work on this November.

Remember, I've often been a Rebel (someone who breaks the traditional rules of NaNoWriMo, and writes something other than a novel started on November 1st), so this opens up a variety of possibilities for me.

Projects on the table for NaNoWriMo:

  • Revive work on Ruby Ransome, my 1920s vampire series.  I determined a few years ago that the novel needed a complete overhaul based on something I realized about my main characters' motivations, but around that time I decided to shelve the project for the time being.  If I revived it for NaNoWriMo, I would have to read through the existing first novel prior to November, reacquaint myself with the story and my research, and mark out the passages that I want to rewrite (which is most of it, but there are a few I could possibly keep).  The big motivation for working on Ruby in November would be so that I could self publish it in 2023.  The first novel takes place in 1923, so publishing in 2023 seems appropriate.  On the down side, it wouldn't be income generating for a long time, and would be the start of a fairly time consuming project.
  • Work on my DIY doll stringing ebook and related tutorials.  I've had a restringing tutorial for sale on my DIY Doll Stringing website (formerly Doll Stringing Extravaganza) for years, and it desperately needs to be updated to reflect current ebook publishing standards.  While some of that would be updating the ebook template, some of the copy needs to be updated.  In addition, I've been planning on writing several related tutorials and expanding my ebook line.  Working on this in November has its draw because it would be income generating much sooner than my novel series.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't generate 50,000 words (which is what's needed to "win" NaNoWriMo), and I've found in the past that writing nonfiction during NaNoWriMo is much more difficult.
  • Blog-o-vember.  I've done this before, and used November to form better blogging habits.  It works well, but 1,666 words is a lot of blogging per day.  Possibly not a bad thing, since I've got multiple blogs, but still.  It feels like a bit of a copout, even though I know it's still valid writing work that I need to get done and that will benefit my websites.
  • Write what you will.  I've done this in the past, too, with somewhat less success: Made my goal to write 1,667 words a day, on any of my personal projects (client work doesn't count).  That might be blogging, working on my ebooks, or working on my novel.  I find that not focusing on just one project actually seems to sap my motivation during NaNoWriMo, though, so while it's a valid effort and not quite off the table, it's not my preference.
I am still going back and forth over what my goal will be for November, but most likely I think I'll either choose to focus on Ruby, or if I can't get organized in time, do a hybrid "write what you will" of business writing (blogging, ebooks, etc.).

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Challenges of a Virtual NaNoWriMo

I've already talked a little bit about how covid impacted workers in 2020.  I didn't work in an office, so it didn't really change anything for me there, but I experienced many of the same (but different) challenges in November of 2020 as an ML for NaNoWriMo.

We knew earlier in the year that HQ was mandating virtual only for NaNoWriMo.  Even though most places were opening up, NaNoWriMo didn't want any of their events to be responsible for people getting sick and potentially dying, so we weren't allowed to plan, promote, or even approve any in-person events.

This was a challenge for our region, which is typically a busy and well-attended region at local, in-person events.  We had a pretty good social media presence already, though, so we built off of that.  We offered virtual write-ins at the same times as many of our common, popular in-person write-ins, using a variety of platforms.  Some write-ins were on Zoom, some were on Facebook video chat, some were in Discord.  We also held a virtual kickoff party on Zoom.

Participation dropped, of course, which we expected, but not too badly.  We still had anywhere from four to ten people at most of the write-ins.  We didn't do as many write-ins, just a few a week instead of the one or more a day we were used to - which was actually to be expected, since we were planning and hosting all of the write-ins, rather than wrimos planning some of them as happens with in-person write-ins.

Last year ended up being virtual as well, and we noticed more of a drop-off in participation last year.  The feeling was that most of our local participants had the stamina to make it through one year of virtual, but not two.  There were many write-ins that weren't attended at all. 

We get it.  Some people really like the virtual format, and we've had Discord write-ins for years.  But others struggle.  For a lot of wrimos, the social aspect of in-person write-ins is what sustains motivation and momentum for the entire month of November, and virtual events just aren't the same.

Don't get me wrong, I think some people love the virtual write-ins and will still attend them.  I just think we'll do better with a combination of virtual and in-person.

This year will be our first in-person NaNoWriMo following covid.  HQ wants us to continue to offer a virtual component too, so we're planning on still doing a few virtual write-ins.  But we're excited to be able to offer in-person events again, as we feel like that's the life and blood of a successful NaNoWriMo.

Will participation still be down a little, even in our busy region?  HQ expects it to be, although I won't be surprised if we get a surge of participation at first from wrimos who have been anxiously awaiting the return of in-person events.  We'll have to wait and see how the forum and social media participation ramps up closer to November.  It's only September, after all, and not everyone is thinking about NaNoWriMo yet!

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Volunteering as a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo

In my last post, I talked about what NaNoWriMo is, and what I've done with it over the years.  In addition to participating as a writer every year, I am also a Municipal Liaison, known as an ML, which basically just means I'm an organizer for my region, the Denver region.

I had been doing NaNo for a number of years when I decided to apply as an ML.  I was already organizing write-ins and was quite active in the local events for our region.  I started "MLing" in 2015, which means that this will be my eighth year as an ML.

Eight years!  I can hardly believe it.  When I started, I was replacing one of our region's two MLs, as she was moving.  She later moved back, and since we have a busy region and really need more than just a couple MLs, she rejoined the team.  (More recently, a longtime ML from about ten years ago has moved back to the Denver area, so we're hoping she'll rejoin the team next year, too.)

As I keep mentioning, we have a busy region here in Denver.  The last couple years have been all virtual due to covid, but before that, we always had a kickoff party Halloween night from 10pm until 2am (so that we could start writing right at midnight), and at least one write-in nearly every day of the month throughout November.

A write-in, by the way, is where a group of wrimos get together and... you guessed it... write.  We do this at book stores, coffee shops, libraries, cafes, college community areas, and pretty much just anywhere that'll put up with us. Most write-ins last two to three hours, and if you have a successful time, you can easily leave with your daily word count (or more!) finished.  They're fantastic for keeping up motivation, spirits, and word count.

As an ML, it's our job to run this busy month of moving parts.  We put a fair bit of planning into the kickoff party especially, usually starting weeks if not months in advance.  We don't have to plan all the write-ins - wrimos do some of that too - but we plan quite a few of them.  We also have a calendar we manage for all of the write-ins and events, a regional forum within the NaNoWriMo forum that we have to stay on top of, regular emails we send out to participants, and social media presences to maintain.

In addition to all of that, there are extra things that we often do in our region.  One of my co-MLs has developed a relationship with Denver's version of Comic Con (the name has changed a few times since they had to stop using the name Comic Con, but the con itself has been the same).  We get a community table there nearly every year, where we hang out and educate people about NaNoWriMo.  We also often speak on panels at the con about doing NaNoWriMo and other aspects of novel writing.

It's not a huge volunteer job, especially as so much of the "job" coincides with what I would be doing anyway (planning and going to write-ins), but it's nothing to sneeze at, either.  I feel like the past seven-soon-to-be-eight years have taught me a lot of skills that have benefitted me both professionally and personally, such as more confidence with public speaking, better people skills, more networking opportunities, and experience organizing events.  Plus, as funny as it sounds, it has given me writing experience I wouldn't have gotten as easily doing what I do: It encouraged me to keep up with my fiction writing (my first love), and also gave me an opportunity to practice my writing for emails and mailings, which I don't do a lot of in my "day job."

As I write this, we're in the early stages of NaNo prep season.  While our wrimos are starting to plot and plan, we're ordering stickers from headquarters and getting a location and other details nailed down for our kickoff party (planned way in advance because we require a venue that can handle anywhere from 60-70 people, to as many as 130 when November 1st falls on a weekend).

This year's NaNoWriMo will be an especially big deal, and I'll talk about why in my next post.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

NaNoWriMo: Just What Is It, Anyway?

When I was going through my posts the other day, I came across all of my old NaNoWriMo posts.  With NaNoWriMo coming up again, and considering the major overhaul in my blog after a long hiatus (and most likely the loss of all my old readership), I decided I had better explain NaNoWriMo again.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and is frequently shortened to NaNo or nano (and its participants are often called wrimos).  Despite the name, this is actually an international event now, which takes place every November.  It's a self-challenge (meaning it's not a competition against others) to write a novel, or 50,000 words of a novel, in the month of November.

If you do NaNoWriMo fairly strictly, you're not to even start the novel until November, although you can start outlining and worldbuilding before then.  You can start writing on the stroke of midnight on November 1st in your time zone, and need to have finished by 11:59pm on November 30th in order to "win."

NaNo has been going on for a long time, I think around 20 years now.  I started participating in NaNo way back in 2006, when I had just a year of freelancing full-time under my belt.  I "won" that first year, had a number of failed years after that, and then "won" again with the completion of my 1920s vampire novel, Ruby Ransome, in 2011.  I was a "rebel" that year, since I started with a novel already in progress, although I only counted words written in November toward my NaNoWriMo word count.

I've actually rebelled a lot of years.  NaNoWriMo is an incredible motivational tool, so I've used it to kick start all kinds of writing projects, not all of them novels.  I love bending rules, so I've used NaNo to increase my blogging, to work on nonfiction projects, and to write more for myself just in general.  As a freelance writer, I find that the hardest thing is to work on my own projects, especially when I have paying client work waiting in the wings.  As a result, I have lots of unfinished projects forever parked on the back burner, and NaNoWriMo helps me make progress on those.  I don't always "win," but I figure as long as I get writing done that I wouldn't have otherwise, it's a win in my book.

That's what NaNoWriMo is and what I've written with it over the years.  In my next post, I'll talk more about my volunteer work with NaNoWriMo.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Canva: Free, Easy Design Tool


I started out looking for a way to edit videos, and I remembered several different friends having recommended Canva for different purposes.  One friend uses it for social media posts for her job, and another friend uses it for designing digital downloads for his online business.

I was slow to warm up to this free design tool, as it can sometimes be glitchy and counterintuitive, but I keep going back to it and discovering something else it can do.  Canva has a lot of features I love:

  • Seamless syncing between mobile and desktop
  • Flexible ability to design pretty much anything, whether it's an image, text-based, video, or mixed
  • A nice selection of freebies

I'm only just beginning to get acquainted with Canva's full potential, but the more I discover, the more I love it.  It's not just a social media tool - it has the ability to design just about any print material you can think of (resumes, brochures, business cards, book covers, even ebooks), plus a great selection of templates to give you ideas and make the job easier.  I designed my website header in Canva, I'm working on a shiny new resume, and I have plans to use Canva for a whole list of projects I had on my to-do list, from business cards to ebooks.

I still do most of my video editing in a dedicated video editor due to how glitchy Canva's video editor seems to be, but I'm realizing how powerful of a design tool Canva is for just about everything else!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Freelancers Prove that Working from Home Works

Yesterday's post about the business world pushing employees back to the office went a little off the rails, so I never got around to discussing where freelancers fit in.

When I left off, I was talking about the assumption that management has to physically watch employees or they won't work, and how I believe it comes from Taylorism, which is basically the grandfather of the modern office.  While Taylorism was originally designed for the factory setting, the same principles were quickly put to use in early 20th century offices.  For instance, in the 1910s and 1920s, Sears in Chicago hired young women as typists to type up order slips.  They were not secretaries, trained to handle any number of tasks their employer could need done, such as in a private office.  There were hundreds of them, working at rows of desks in a large warehouse-style office, typing up the same sort of thing. over. and. over.  And there was a manager's office on high, watching over them as they worked.  Start times, quitting times, and breaks were closely monitored, and no talking was allowed during work hours.

That's obviously a very extreme workplace environment to most of us today, but still, you can see the ancestor of the modern office in the structure, the microdivision of tasks, and the intense supervision and fundamental distrust of employees.

Freelancing is obviously the polar opposite of Taylorism.  Rather than believing employees to be untrustworthy and incapable of managing the big picture, the freelance industry puts us wholly in charge of our fate.  We are big picture people.  We manage our client relationships, our marketing, our task management, and our rates, and we do it all from our own homes (or wherever else we choose to work).  We basically say, "You don't have to micromanage us; just pay us for the finished product and we will deliver it to you."  We take all of that assumption that employees are inherently lazy, all of the loud offices with their foosball and snack walls and other "perks" designed to somehow trick people into wanting to be in the office, and we trash it without giving it a second thought.  Cut the bullshit.  Tell me what you want and I'll do it, from the comfort of my own kitchen.  And then I'll feed my cat.

There are, obviously, disadvantages to the freelance industry.  You don't have someone on staff to take your demands at any time.  We don't have a guaranteed salary or other benefits that come with full-time employment.  I have to buy my own office supplies... but hey, you don't have to devote resources to making sure I don't steal yours.

I think it's taken me these two posts to come round to what I've been trying to express the entire time: Freelancing proves that these things can be done, just as the pandemic and the studies I cited proved they could be done, but it's all in how you approach it.  When you give people freedom to work how they work best, you're meeting them on equal ground.  It becomes a matter of respect, and when you respect someone, they will do their best for you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

What Happened to Working from Home?

As a freelancer, it's been interesting to watch the work-from-home tug-of-war over the last few years.  For years there had been a prevailing reluctance to allow employees to work from home, even though I'd seen some of that resistance breaking down more recently, usually in "millennial" type companies that prided themselves on their work atmosphere and perks.  One of those "perks" was often the flexibility to work from home some days, usually on snow days and sick days, but sometimes "just because," a sort of early hybrid schedule.  I had a couple of friends who worked 100 percent from home, but those friends were outliers, exceptions to the rule.  The reigning belief was that it couldn't be done, even though those friends' companies and freelancers like myself proved otherwise.

Then covid hit, and basically the entire business world went to work from home.  There became a new definition of what could be done, because it basically had to be done, unless it genuinely couldn't be done.

I remember a lot of discussions with office workers at the time.  We all felt like covid had tipped the scales, and now that businesses saw that it could be done, and actually done quite well, that more businesses would go to work-from-home models.  After all, why pay for huge offices and all those expensive office perks if they aren't needed?

Over the last two or so years, I've watched my friends, family, and acquaintances slowly creep back to work.  At first, it was just a few lonely businesses who seemed, rather unfairly, to be forcing their employees back to work.  Gradually more companies followed suit, but there were still quite a few holdouts.  And then all at once, it seems, the majority of the business world has suddenly returned to our old normal, without any regard for the lessons learned when practically the whole world worked from home out of necessity.

I've seen companies get almost mean about it, when their employees didn't want to go back to the office.  They asked, they prodded, and when their employees were basically like, "No, we're good," they put their foot down and forced the issue.

I started to wonder, was the work-from-home experiment not as resoundingly successful as I thought?  But then I saw this article in the times, So You Wanted to Get Work Done at the Office?  And it turns out I'm not the only one who is bemused at the push to return to the office.  People really do get more done at home, away from the distractions of a busy office and all of its "perks," and there is research to back it up.  For example, take this study showing that call center employees who worked from home took fewer breaks, called in sick less, and got more done.  Likewise, this study demonstrated that even a hybrid model (two days working from home out of a five-day workweek) led to an increase in both productivity and job satisfaction, and a decrease in turnover.

In other words, employees who work from home are happier, more motivated, and more productive.  Why on earth wouldn't employers want this?

I believe it comes down to a business philosophy called Taylorism that became popular over 100 years ago, and is the basis for many of our current work atmospheres and attitudes.  It's partly the idea of paring jobs down into assembly-line tasks to save time by creating employees who are each experts in a small part of the big picture, but Taylorism is also all wrapped up in the notion of watching employees who are assumed to be innately lazy and untrustworthy if they don't have their manager driving them at all times.

Of course the modern workplace has softened a lot from the way Taylorism was enforced 100 years ago, but it's still much the same concept.  Now offices have water coolers and coffee machines, snack walls and community rooms, but there is still - apparently - that expectation that if management doesn't keep a physical eye on employees, they won't work... even though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary (not the least of which is that nearly the entire business world worked from home for months, if not longer, and the world kept on turning).

This turned into a longer post than I was anticipating, so tomorrow I'll talk about where freelancers come in.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Covid as a Freelancer

One of the things covid has really thrown into sharp relief is the failure of our job market to provide reliable benefits such as sick time.  For the most part, middle and upper class employees don't have to worry about this, as they generally work jobs that provide paid sick leave (or enable working from home, when someone is contagious but not too sick to work).  It's hourly employees and freelancers who have had to deal with the impact of illness when paid sick days are not available.

Yes, this is on my mind because finally, after nearly 2.5 years since it first shut everything down, I got covid.

I had a fairly mild case, as far as covid cases go, and yet it still wiped me out.  I was congested and coughing just a little, but the fatigue itself was anything but mild.  My husband and I felt symptoms coming on Wednesday night, and quickly went into full sick mode, conserving our energy for the only things that mattered: feeding my horse and the house pets, basically.  We alternated going out to the barn to feed Panama as much as possible so that we could both get enough sleep, and in that manner, slept basically all day Thursday and Friday.  We barely even ate.

Saturday was the first day of any improvement, when I was able to stay awake for about eight hours instead of immediately crashing again as soon as I was done feeding Panama.  Yesterday, Sunday, saw a little bit of a backslide, as I napped again in the afternoon and early evening, after dragging myself out to the barn to feed.

Once again, I am incredibly grateful for my clients.  The same clients who were understanding when Panama was sick were also patient when I couldn't get a couple of articles done last week.  I kept thinking I'd be able to, but kept having to put them off.  Fortunately my clients allowed me the extra time, no questions asked.  I was able to get a little caught up by working a bit over the weekend when I felt well enough.  I've been moving a little slow today, but have been able to get enough done that I'm pretty satisfied with the day.  I have to remind myself not to expect pre-covid productivity, though, just something that's better than the last few days.

I'm trying to prioritize so that I can get the most important things done while still giving myself sufficient time to rest.  A lot of friends have been warning me about the hazards of pushing yourself too soon when recovering from covid.  Apparently it can delay getting better and may even contribute to rebound covid.  I definitely don't want that!

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Regarding Holiday Weekends

Holiday weekends are always a tough thing for freelancer writers.  These include the standard holiday weekends such as Memorial Day and Labor Day; uncommon holiday weekends where a holiday falls on a Friday through Monday, creating a three-day weekend for business people; and also uncommonly celebrated holiday weekends that include holidays not observed by all companies, such as President's Day.  I'd also include that pesky Friday after Thanksgiving, which many business people get or take off.

Holiday weekends are difficult for freelancers because typically our family, friends, and people we would consider colleagues have paid days off for these holidays.  They get to enjoy a three-day weekend (or four-day weekend, for Thanksgiving) without actually taking time off.  And they typically expect us to have the day off too, inviting us to barbeques, dinner parties, weekend getaways, and the like.  Because why wouldn't we have the day off?  We're in charge of our own schedules.

Obviously this is on my mind because this is a holiday weekend, and my husband has Monday off.  On top of that, my mom is visiting, but not until Monday afternoon.  It's all complicated by the fact that I have several deadlines midday Tuesday, so I have to plan ahead in order to meet those.  And since I wasn't able to get the work done during the week, it means I'll be working on the holiday weekend.

After 17 years as a freelance writer, I've worked a lot of nights and weekends.  In fact, as you probably remember from my other posts, working late is my preference.  That doesn't mean, however, that I'm available all the time.  Just like any other worker, I require time off during the week to spend time with my family and enjoy personal hobbies.

I don't blame any of my clients for my current predicament of having to work this weekend.  I knew about several of the deadlines a couple weeks ago, and since I had planned to get the work done this past week, hadn't noticed that they were due right after Labor Day weekend.  I do, however, think many freelancing job platforms bear responsibility at least in part for the "always on" notion of freelancer schedules, as they allow clients to assign work with a deadline expressed in hours (24 hours, 36 hours, etc.) without regard to weekends or holidays.  For instance, one client assigned me four blog posts yesterday, with two of them due in 48 hours - which, even if I had waited as long as possible to accept them (and assuming I did not forget) would have made them due on Tuesday, immediately following a holiday weekend.

Please, if you appreciate and respect your freelancers, try to be aware of their schedule when requesting work.  Not all freelancers avoid working on the weekends - in fact, some work weekends out of necessity - so if they've shared their work schedule with you, try to keep that in mind when assigning work.  Best practice is to always request new work at least a week out, so that your freelancer can complete it with whatever time works best for them throughout the week, not to mention juggle it with any work they have for other clients.


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